On the 15th March, aware of the virus, when the U16s played Colchester we were bumping elbows rather than shaking hands. We never dreamt that, one week later, we would be standing 2 metres apart. The following day on 16th March the RFU suspended rugby and the Club has been closed ever since.
Covid-19 has touched us all in some way, not least the club, with Corinne suspected of having the virus mid-March, Elliot Dawson spending a prolonged time in ICU but thankfully finally being able to return to his family, and very sadly Johan Burger, who a lot of you know from the club 7s competition where he was always on the barbecue, who lost his hard fought battle with the virus. He will be greatly missed. We must all remember those club members who may be isolated due to health or age, and who could maybe do with a message or a phone call, or even help in some way.
Although the situation caught us on the back foot, we went into action as soon as possible to secure the future of the club. We successfully secured a grant from the Government and all staff have been furloughed. The Council have agreed to defer 3 months rental, we have cancelled our waste management contract which costs £300 per month and suspended our entertainment licence.
To the end of January we were running at a small loss but with the prospective good months of March and April round the corner we expected to at least break even. The wettest February in memory saw takings plummet, and with only half of March and no April we are now expecting a loss for the 2019-2020 year which ended at the end of April. We are awaiting the final draft accounts to see how big the loss has been, although the Government grant and our other savings above will of course have helped.
The good news is that, subject to no urgent repairs, we can keep going if the lockdown continues for the rest of next season, provided our membership continues. We would run at a cash loss to the figure of around £15,000 to £20,000. Thankfully both the Senior section and the Junior section have been prudent over the past few years to provide a ‘safety net’ for just such a situation. Hopefully there will be lifting of the restrictions to the sports and leisure industry soon, although it is expected that, as a contact sport and with the handling of the ball being the main part of our game, we will be one of the last sectors to be allowed to return.
The season came to a premature end and our 1st XV were awarded 4th position based on our previous results. It would have been nice to have played out the season as we could well have sneaked 3rd and perhaps have affected who were champions, but it is what it is and other clubs have found themselves in the same position.
The 2nd XV avoided relegation and, although they faced a hard season, they should be proud of their achievement in a tough league.
Our social team made its debut this season, starting from a group of fathers training together to keep up their fitness. Alongside our Ladies team, who have had some very good results this season and whose numbers are growing, they have proved to be a strong social base for our club, something we have been lacking of late. This has all meant us being able to field 4 teams at senior level once again, 3 mens and 1 ladies.
Our Junior section continues to stay strong, with teams for all ages from 4 to 18, and the biggest intake of Bumbles in the club’s history, at 38. As previously mentioned, the section has also been quite frugal with their spending over the past few years, which will give them stability going forwards until things return to the new normal.
Overall, we saw some great rugby throughout the club, and a big thank you must go to all the players, coaches and management, and of course to all the parents and supporters.
Due to the current situation with Covid-19 and lockdown, we have not been able to hold the Senior or Youth and Mini Awards, as the clubhouse is closed. We believe it is a very important part of rugby culture to honour the achievements of the season for players, clubman and outstanding achievement, plus the various awards given out by the Juniors. We therefore have decided to hold both Awards as soon as possible in the new season and will inform everyone once dates have been selected.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank Jamie Clarke, who stepped down from the position as Head Coach. We have a new coaching team in place for next season with James Herbert as Senior Head Coach, assisted by Steve Arundell. James is showing great enthusiasm and is really looking forward to being able to begin training.
This is a good time to formulate a 3 to 5-year plan in order to have direction as to what we wish to achieve. With that in mind I will be looking to form a small group to put together a proposal and will seek the thoughts across the club.
All members should have received notice that the AGM has been postponed until August 13th. The difficulty of holding an online AGM is fraught with problems with potentially 162 members wanting to participate.
Our annual Matthew New 7s due to be held on 1st August is of course up in the air at present, but we will keep you informed of any decisions made.
We sincerely hope that the situation will be such by November that we will be able to hold the Guy Fawkes Display, as this is our only fund raiser and the loss of this income could well have an impact on the club going forward.
Looking ahead we believe there are 5 stages, with no dates as yet, before we get to a new normal. These are:-
1. Lock down: No training or games. No use of clubhouse, gym or pitches. Payment of necessities such as utility bills, rent, security
2. Start-up phase: Date given for start of training. Purchase kit and equipment. Bar remains closed.
3. Training begins: No bar/ Changing rooms and showers doubtful.
4. Bar gets ready: Date given for opening bar. Bar is restocked, premises prepared for return of members.
5. Club reopens: Bar open. Fixtures begin. Kitchen reopens. Food for players pre-match, pre-match lunches and post-match food will become available. (Opposition to confirm prior to games coming up to bar for drinks/food)
In summary, we are still relatively healthy financially but need the continued support of our members and sponsors, without whom we will struggle and possibly not survive as a club.
These are unprecedented circumstances but I know that if we all work together we will come through this and once again enjoy our rugby and our club. It should be a great party!
Yours in rugby,